While no one can say with certainty all the ways enterprise imaging may evolve in the years to come, healthcare provider organization and enterprise imaging vendor executives in the know have strongly-held beliefs about some of the ways the technology will change.
They also can pinpoint steps hospitals and systems should be taking today to future-proof their IT set-ups for enterprise imaging evolution.
The following is advice from some experts on what providers need to be doing today.
1. Begin with governance that starts with the question: “How does this improve patient outcomes?” That advice comes from James Forrester, director of cardiovascular and imaging informatics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Our governance model has allowed us to standardize on imaging software as well as imaging modalities reducing healthcare costs while at the same time recognizing the unique needs of tertiary care medicine and enabling unique imaging needs like maternal-fetal medicine, transplant, and more. While at the same time the final imaging study is available from the EHR as a reference for all healthcare providers.”
2. Develop an enterprise imaging roadmap. You know the old joke ‘how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’ Well, it applies here, too. “Without a roadmap that has been prioritized by governance leadership, attempts to implement an enterprise imaging program will flail or stall with constant shift in priorities,” Forrester said. “Provider confidence and buy-in also erode without a clear-cut direction and roadmap. Again, the roadmap should be prioritized by patient outcomes, taking into account expense, risk mitigation and other business drivers.”
3. Providers need strategic awareness of data storage and communication protocols in the radiology industry and the will to move to the latest standards as they develop. That philosophy, in a nutshell, is what future-proofing enterprise imaging and so many other emerging technologies is really all about. “Interoperability is the future of medicine worldwide,” said Ronald Milbank, director of information technology at Reno Diagnostic Centers. “Finding the most cost-effective use of those technologies will reduce administrative headcount over time.”
4. Ensure modality equipment and software acquisitions focus on automation of complex protocols. “That way your lower experienced or newly educated staff can produce high-quality results right the first time without other skilled labor force interaction whenever possible,” Milbank said. “It allows a balance of experienced and inexperienced staff without impacting quality and lowers labor expenses versus having all fully tenured staff.”
5. Make a commitment to open systems. “Use vendors and products that will openly share information and allow the free flow of information at a fair price,” said Neil Weber, vice president for imaging at GE Healthcare. “This is critical in enabling analytics and artificial intelligence.”
6. Focus on simplification. “Decrease the number of systems and processes when possible,” Weber advised. “Complexity invites human error and makes implementation of new systems or processes more difficult.”
7. Select a single vendor for enterprise imaging. “The use of multiple PACS systems is not successful because these systems were not designed for interoperability and therefore do not deliver a cohesive workflow,” said Ludovic d’Aprea global general manager for healthcare information solutions at enterprise imaging vendor Carestream Health. “A single-vendor platform that is designed to address all aspects of enterprise imaging will ensure the highest level of interoperability with the lowest maintenance cost. These single-vendor systems also will provide an easier path to a cloud-delivery model.”
8. Think about Big Data. “Big Data analytics has gained prominence in the medical imaging arena in recent years for its critical contribution to the care continuum, along with other electronic health record data in context,” d’Aprea said. “With the American College of Radiology’s Imaging 3.0 initiative and the current focus on value-based healthcare delivery, analytics tools will go well beyond gathering operational metrics to address outcomes, reimbursement, protocols and patient experiences. The impact of data analytics will be far-reaching and will include image and report analytics for decision support, radiology assistance and population health.”
9. Do the discovery work today to find opportunities to improve care. Get a sense of issues and opportunities with current imaging systems and data that are impairing optimal patient care processes. “The discovery should go well beyond the IT department’s obvious need for storage consolidation and include clinical departments such as emergency department, surgery, nursing and even pain management clinics,” said Frank Pecaitis, senior vice president at enterprise imaging vendor AGFA HealthCare. “Take a physical inventory of systems, processes and clinical needs for imaging information.”
10. Align your abilities to fund and actually use new enterprise imaging technologies. Recognize that this is a multi-year journey that will literally involve every care delivery area both inside and outside the hospital and to the patient,” Pecaitis said. “Set a three- to five-year plan that aligns with your organization’s ability to fund and consume such technology.”